Category Archives: Referees in the Middle

Referees in the Middle: Stephen Lodge

Premier League Career: 1992-2001

First Premier League Match: Middlesbrough 2-0 Manchester City (19 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Ipswich Town 2-1 Manchester City (7 May 2001)

Living in Barnsley, Stephen Lodge now works as a local government officer. In his previous occupation, he spent 14 years as a referee in both the Football League and Premier League before retiring at the end of the 2000-2001 campaign.

Born in 1952, he took control of his first games at just 19-years-old in the local Barnsley & District Football League. After five years in the Football League top-flight, Lodge was included on the first referees’ list for the inaugural Premier League season.

His first game of 175 Premier League matches came on 19th August 1992 at Middlesbrough’s old Ayresome Park ground. Two goals from Bernie Slaven helped newly-promoted Boro defeat Peter Reid’s Manchester City 2-0. In total, he flashed out 535 yellow cards and 24 red cards during his nine seasons in the top-flight. In fact, his first red card wasn’t shown in a Premier League match until 30th April 1994 when Aston Villa goalkeeper Nigel Spink was dismissed in Villa’s 4-1 loss at The Dell to Southampton.

1996 was a busy year for Lodge. In that year he took charge of an FA Cup semi-final, a Football League Cup semi-final, and the FA Vase final of that year, in which Brigg Town beat Clitheroe 3-0. A year later, he got the big accolade of the FA Cup final as Chelsea defeated Middlesbrough 2-0. Roberto Di Matteo scored the fastest FA Cup final goal at the time; a record that stood for 12 years.

The 1998-1999 campaign was Stephen’s most demanding. He gave out 99 yellow cards in this season alone. This included eight bookings in Manchester United’s 2-0 triumph over North West rivals Liverpool FC in September 1998 and a penalty awarded to the home side for a handball by Jason McAteer.

Lodge’s most funniest moment came in the M69 Derby in November 1999 between Coventry City and Leicester City. Early on in the game, he attempted to show off his skills by back-heeling the ball during a break in play and famously fell over, giving everyone who attended the game at Highfield Road a real laugh.

In May 2001, Lodge retired from the game that he had enjoyed and won respect from many. His last Premier League appointment came at Portman Road. Ipswich Town came from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1 on a night which sealed City’s relegation from the top-flight. He continued in a part-time role with the popular indoor Masters Football tournament for several years after his professional finale.

Alongside his government officer role, Lodge is still involved nowadays in football as a Premier League referees’ assessor.

Advertisements

Referees in the Middle: Gary Willard

Premier League Career: 1994-1999

First Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Everton (23 August 1994)

Final Premier League Match: West Ham United 4-0 Middlesbrough (16 May 1999)

Gary Willard’s final Premier League match was in 1999 as West Ham United defeated Middlesbrough 4-0 on the final day of the season. This meant he fell three games short of taking control of a century of Premier League matches.

From Worthing in Sussex, Willard became a Football League referee in 1990 at the age of 31. Four years later, he earned himself promotion to the Premier League list of officials for the 1994-1995 season. His first Premier League game was Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 home victory over Everton in August 1994. Jurgen Klinsmann marked his home debut with two goals, whilst Willard also awarded a spot-kick to Spurs which was missed by Teddy Sheringham. A few days later, he dished out his first red card in the top-flight to Leicester City’s Nicky Mohan in the Foxes 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest.

In total, Gary handed out 340 yellow and 19 red cards during his five-year career as a referee in the Premier League. However, there is no doubt what his hardest match was and that came at Oakwell in March 1998 as Liverpool FC travelled to Yorkshire to face Barnsley.

Liverpool won the game 3-2 but it was the Tykes who got the short straw as by full-time, they had been reduced to eight men. First, Darren Barnard was dismissed in the 53rd minute for tripping Michael Owen as the young striker raced clear for a shot on-goal. Next, Owen was involved in another incident with Chris Morgan and went down clutching his face. Willard decided Morgan had made deliberate intent to hurt the player, so gave him his marching orders too. This led to a fan running onto the pitch in a vain attempt to confront the referee. This led to a police escort and Willard took sanction in his own dressing room for five minutes as he desperately seeked protection in a highly-charged atmosphere.

Worse was to come. Martin Bullock had a scuffle with Paul Ince and in stoppage-time; Darren Sheridan was shown a second yellow card and also, saw red from Willard. Incredibly, he’d only given three yellow cards in the same match.

An officer for the Inland Revenue away from his refereeing duties, Willard’s last appointment actually came in UEFA competition, taking charge of a UEFA Cup tie between Lausanne Sports and Celta Vigo in September 1999. Due to “personal reasons,” he wouldn’t officiate again in any professional competition.

Referees in the Middle: Steve Tanner

Premier League Career: 2006-2009

First Premier League Match: Reading 0-2 Everton (23 December 2006)

Final Premier League Match: Manchester City 1-0 Sunderland (22 March 2009)

Steve Tanner’s career as a Premier League referee was fairly brief. He got to experience the limelight of officiating top-flight matches just 26 times, giving out 79 yellow cards at an average of three yellow cards per game.

Tanner took up the referee’s whistle in 1987, eventually officiating in the Southern League all the way until 2002. Four years earlier, he had made the step-up to the Football League as an assistant referee before becoming a referee at this level in 2003.

Everyone has to start somewhere and that was the case for the official from Bristol, whose first Football League match was an encounter in the Third Division between Mansfield Town and Kidderminster Harriers. In 2006, his impressive work was being noted and it was decided he should have a ‘trial’ at doing a couple of Premier League matches. His first game was two days before Christmas in 2006 as Everton won 2-0 away at Reading. He let the game flow brilliantly, not even handing out a single yellow card in this match in Berkshire.

A week later, he was at a New Years’ Eve fixture between Watford and Wigan Athletic that was abandoned midway through the second half with the scoreline at 1-1 due to a waterlogged pitch. Three months later, he did take charge of a Wigan game that did go the distance; an uneventful goalless draw with Fulham.

Tanner made it onto the Select Group of officials in time for the 2007-2008 season and he spent two years on the list, largely without any major controversies. In fact, his trickiest match was arguably his last as Manchester City defeated Sunderland 1-0 in March 2009. In this game, he handed out eight yellow cards, sent off George McCartney for a professional foul after just 13 minutes and awarded a penalty which Marton Fulop saved from Robinho.

Along with Keith Stroud, he lost his Premier League rights at the end of the campaign and gave up the game after three further seasons back in the Football League. He is now Referee Development Officer for the Gloucestershire Football Association.

Referees in the Middle: David Elleray

Premier League Career: 1992-2003

First Premier League Match: Liverpool FC 2-1 Sheffield United (19 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Newcastle United 1-0 Birmingham City (3 May 2003)

One of the most well-known and high-profile referees in the first decade of the Premier League, David Elleray was one of the strongest officials in the top-flight. He took charge of 197 games between 1992 and his retirement in 2003, handing out 540 yellow cards and 34 red cards.

A former geography teacher and housemaster at a public school in Harrow, Elleray took a firm and strict approach to the game at a time when referees were combining a full-time day job with weekend matches in the middle. He certainly was someone who you wouldn’t mess around with.

Educated at Dover Grammar School for Boys, David did dabble with the playing side of football at a young age but started taking charge of games at the age of just 13. It was a role he enjoyed doing and a hobby that soon turned into something he would be well-known for throughout the rest of his career.

A keen rugby enthusiast, he went to University and progressed through the non-league system until becoming a Football League official in 1986. Three years later, he took part in a trial which saw officials wear microphones during a tempestuous First Division clash between London rivals Millwall and Arsenal. It didn’t go well and David admitted in an interview with the BBC in 2013 that the documentary, shown on Channel 4 had been corrupted. He said: “I saw a preview which was very balanced, but it was then hijacked to become a witch-hunt of Arsenal. Bleeps were put in to give the impression that players were swearing when they hadn’t. They only showed the occasions when there was some sort of dispute between the players and me. They edited out all the good exchanges and gave the impression that Arsenal had behaved appallingly.”

Included on the original referees list for the inaugural Premier League season, Elleray is remembered for a number of incidents in his career. He was the official at the 1994 FA Cup final, handing two penalties on the day to Manchester United in their 4-0 victory over Chelsea. He later admitted in his autobiography that for the second spot-kick, scored by Eric Cantona, he “blew without thinking” and although he knew he had made a mistake, he could not change his mind.

However, he was well-respected by supporters, coaches and even repeat players who got in trouble with him. Roy Keane was sent off four times in his career by Elleray but there was no bad blood between the pair. The referee admitted: “I got a letter and a signed shirt from him when I retired. It demonstrates the relationship between players and referees are better than people think. When you’re away from the heat of battle on the field there is a mutual respect.”

In 1999, David was given two of the tastiest fixtures in the Premier League and they weren’t without any incidents either. In May 1999, Manchester United were going for The Treble and travelled to Anfield to face Liverpool FC. They were leading 2-0 when Liverpool produced a second half fightback with some help from the referee. He gave Liverpool a penalty, even though replays showed Jesper Blomqvist had cleanly tackled Oyvind Leonhardsen in the penalty area. Moments later, Denis Irwin was given a second yellow card for kicking the ball down the touchline. Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray couldn’t believe Elleray’s strict behaviour, saying on the broadcast: “I don’t believe it. It is a nothing offence.” Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said afterwards: “We would have won the game had it not been for the referee and we’re not going to allow him to deny us this opportunity.” United would win The Treble but there were still angered fans who disgustingly sent Elleray death threats afterwards.

Six months later, he took control of the North London Derby at White Hart Lane which saw Tottenham Hotspur defeat Arsenal 2-1. Freddie Ljungberg and Martin Keown were both sent off by Elleray and nine players were booked. Elleray admitted it was one of his toughest-ever matches he had to take control of.

His school commitments meant he missed out on going to a World Cup finals despite being the preferred choice in 1998 (Paul Durkin went instead) but he was a FIFA referee until 1999, taking charge of 40 international matches including the 1997 UEFA Super Cup final between Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. In his final Premier League match, Birmingham’s Matthew Upson was sent off as the Blues lost 1-0 to Newcastle United in May 2003.

He was awarded an MBE in 2014 for his services to football and in May 2016, took the position of Technical Director for the International Football Association Board. His achievements mean David Elleray has to qualify as one of the Premier League’s most influential referees in the first 25 years of the competition.

Referees in the Middle: Martin Bodenham

Premier League Career: 1992-1998

First Premier League Match: Manchester City 1-1 Queens Park Rangers (17 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Sheffield Wednesday 1-3 Aston Villa (2 May 1998)

Taking control of 119 Premier League matches, Martin Bodenham has actually enjoyed two sporting careers. He has been both a football referee and a cricket umpire.

Born in Brighton in 1950, he first took up refereeing at the age of just 16, officiating games in Sunday League level in his home city. 12 years later, he progressed to the Football League list and was part of the referees list for the very first Premier League season in 1992.

His first game was the very first Monday Night Football match in August 1992 between Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers which ended in a 1-1 draw. A month later came one of Bodenham’s toughest games in his Premier League career. Wimbledon drew 1-1 with Blackburn Rovers at Selhurst Park but he sent off three men in the closing stages, dismissing Blackburn pair Mike Newell and Tony Dobson, plus Wimbledon’s Vinnie Jones.

Bodenham admitted in an interview with You Are the Ref: “My favourite years would have been 1992 to 1994, which coincided with when I was on the international list, taking a couple of Germany games.”

Bodenham was also the fourth official when AC Milan destroyed Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 UEFA Champions League final. Although he never got the chance to officiate the big prize of the FA Cup final, he did take charge of three semi-finals. His main appointment was to the 1997 League Cup final replay when Steve Claridge scored an extra-time winner at Hillsborough for Leicester City against Middlesbrough.

He was back at Hillsborough for his final Premier League appointment a year later, as Aston Villa beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-1. This was the first match that saw the Premier League’s record appearance holder Gareth Barry play in. His retirement came on the same weekend of colleague Gerald Ashby.

He remained in football in a distant capacity, becoming the first-ever Head of Refereeing for the county of Sussex and a match observer at Premier League games. However, he was now putting his other sporting passion to the test in the form of cricket. He became a top-class cricket umpire in 2005 and became a first-class umpire for the 2009 County Cricket season. He retired in 2016.

Referees in the Middle: Gerald Ashby

Premier League Career: 1992-1998

First Premier League Match: Leeds United 2-1 Wimbledon (15 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Arsenal 4-0 Everton (3 May 1998)

Arsenal’s first Premier League title in 1998 was a memorable day for all Gunners supporters. They beat Everton 4-0 in a convincing display, finished off in the grand manner by their inspirational skipper, Tony Adams. It was also the final game as a professional referee for Gerald Ashby and a fitting end for one of the inaugural officials in the top-flight era.

An accountant by profession, Ashby became a Football League linesman in 1982 and the Worcestershire official became a referee two years later.

His first match in the Premier League came on the league’s opening weekend as the defending English champions Leeds United saw off Wimbledon 2-1 at Elland Road. Ashby might have earned the respect of many of his peers but he was still involved in some controversial moments in the mid-1990s.

In October 1994, Blackburn Rovers played Manchester United at Ewood Park and were leading 1-0 as half-time approached. Lee Sharpe and Henning Berg were involved in an unavoidable collision in the penalty area. Ashby decided Berg had deliberately leaned into Sharpe and gave a penalty. Then, he sent Berg off to the consternation of Blackburn players surrounding him. Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray said on the broadcast: “I cannot believe that decision, Henning Berg…the ball came off him. That’s unbelievable.”

Three years later, he gave another controversial spot-kick, this time to Liverpool FC at Highbury against Arsenal when he felt David Seaman had brought down Robbie Fowler in the penalty area. Fowler immediately gesticulated that no contact had been made and pleaded with Ashby to change his mind but the referee was not for turning. Fowler would go on to miss the resulting penalty but Liverpool still won 2-1.

Ashby did get the honour of the FA Cup final in 1995 which was the last major trophy won by Everton when Paul Rideout’s goal defeated Manchester United at Wembley. He had three years on the FIFA international list before stepping down at the required retirement age. He retired from duty just a year short of his 50th birthday. He took charge of 111 matches in the Premier League.

After his retirement, he became a referees’ assessor and worked closely with Graham Poll. Just eight days before Christmas in 2001, Gerald Ashby tragically suffered a heart attack and died. He was 52, leaving behind his wife and a daughter.

Head of refereeing at the time, John Baker said: “Gerald was a highly-respected referee. His sound advice and support was always welcomed and appreciated by top level officials.”

Referees in the Middle: Howard Webb

Premier League Career: 2003-2014

First Premier League Match: Fulham 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers (18 October 2003)

Final Premier League Match: Hull City 0-2 Everton (11 May 2014)

Rotherham United supporter Howard Webb has taken charge of the biggest match an official can ever get – the World Cup final. His experience of the 2010 final in Soccer City between Netherlands and Spain turned into a bit of a nightmare as a bitty and sour encounter brewed into a card festival record for the World Cup final.

However, Webb deserved his opportunity after an excellent tournament before the Johannesburg final and he was the leading official for 11 seasons in the Premier League before deciding to call it a day at the end of the 2013-2014 season.

Refereeing was in Webb’s blood from an early age. His father had been a ref for 35 years, so it was something that was very natural for him. He first took up the whistle in the local leagues in 1989. He was appointed as a Football League assistant referee seven years later, juggling the weekend work with a regular role as a police officer with South Yorkshire police.

In 2000, he made the National List and was promoted to the Select Group of officials three years later. His first match in the top-flight was a fairy uneventful goalless draw in October 2003 between Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

A month later, he handed out his first red card, again in a 0-0 game between Bolton Wanderers and Southampton. Saints defender Michael Svensson was the unlucky culprit. In 2008-2009, Webb issued his highest proportion of red cards in his Premier League career – sending six players off in 38 games. Among his victims in terms of dismissals in that season were Nemanja Vidic at Anfield and Cristiano Ronaldo at The City of Manchester Stadium.

Webb was in the middle for two Chelsea cup final victories in the first decade of the new millennium. He took charge of the Blues 2-1 victory over Everton in the 2009 FA Cup final and two years earlier, the 2-1 League Cup final success against London rivals Arsenal. An ugly brawl on the eve of the final whistle saw both managers end up on the pitch trying to calm the melee down which led to red cards for Emmanuel Adebayor, John Obi Mikel and Kolo Toure.

The peak of Webb’s career was 2010. He took charge of the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid when two Diego Milito goals helped Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Madrid showpiece. He then went to South Africa as England’s representative at the World Cup finals and was praised for his control of several matches in the group stage.

This won him the ultimate reward – taking charge of the World Cup final in Johannesburg between Spain and the Netherlands. It should have been the dream occasion but it turned into a nightmare. The Dutch’s reckless style of play meant the game simply did not flow at all and despite his best efforts, he couldn’t allow any rhythm into the match. 14 yellow cards were dished out in the 120 minutes with Jonny Heitinga sent off in extra-time for two bookable offences. In Webb’s defence, the only huge mistake he made was not to send Nigel de Jong off for a kung-fu challenge on Xabi Alonso in the first half.

He got plenty of support afterwards. BBC pundit Alan Hansen said: “Webb tried to make the game flow but on this occasion he was left with no choice.”  Keith Hackett agreed, saying: “Anyone who criticises the officials lacks the knowledge and experience of someone who has refereed.”

He also was a representative at the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the World Cup finals in 2014.

In August 2014, Howard Webb elected to retire from refereeing, three months after taking charge of his final top-flight match which was a 2-0 victory for Everton away at Hull City on the final day of the previous season.

Since then, he has been a video analyst for BT Sport, held a role as director of referees for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and in March 2017, took a role as Manager of VAR operations for the MLS in the United States.

When you consider who the best referee was in the first 25 years of Premier League football, Howard Webb has to be near the top of the list.

Referees in the Middle: Steve Dunn

Premier League Career: 1995-2005

First Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Aston Villa (23 August 1995)

Final Premier League Match: Fulham 6-0 Norwich City (15 May 2005)

In May 2005, Steve Dunn took charge of his 199th and final Premier League match. It was an afternoon Norwich City supporters would rather forget, as they went down 6-0 at Craven Cottage to Fulham to ensure their relegation from the top-flight.

Dunn would fall just one game short of the magical 200 number. Injury meant he missed the entire 2005-2006 campaign which led to a premature retirement. From Bristol, Mr. Dunn had started refereeing local matches in 1978. He progressed through the ranks and became a linesman in the Football League in 1986. He spent six years running the line before becoming a Football League referee in 1992.

In 1995, he joined the list of Premier League officials and made his debut in the first midweek round of matches, at the same time his colleague Jeff Winter made his top-flight bow. Ugo Ehiogu scored the only goal as Aston Villa won away at Tottenham Hotspur 1-0. His first red card came in January 1996, dismissing Wimbledon’s Mick Harford in a tasty London derby between Wimbledon and Queens Park Rangers. Wimbledon won 2-1 in a match that saw a staggering 10 yellow cards.

603 yellow cards were given out by Dunn during his Premier League career but only 19 red cards, which shows that he did all he could to ensure 22 players finished on the field of play by the full-time whistle. His last red card was actually rescinded by the FA. El-Hadji Diouf was sent off after a silly tangle with Adrian Mutu in a match between Chelsea and Liverpool FC in January 2004 but after Liverpool appealed the decision, it was overturned.

Steve Dunn reached the FIFA list of referees in 1997 and completed six years at this level. He became the first English official to achieve the “double” of appearing on FIFA referees and assistants’ lists. This was a feat that was later matched by fellow colleagues Matt Messias, Steve Bennett and Graham Barber.

His highest-profile appointment came in the 2001 FA Cup final which was the first to be played in Wales. Arsenal dominated but were beaten 2-1 by Liverpool FC as Michael Owen scored twice in the last 10 minutes to ensure the Reds claimed their second trophy of the season. Arsenal fans could complain about a blatant handball on the goal-line in the first half by Stephane Henchoz which was missed by the officials.

He would go onto referee League Cup semi-finals in both 2002 and 2004. His last professional match was West Ham United’s 2-0 win against Ipswich Town in the 2005 Championship play-off semi-final 2nd leg with both goals coming from Bobby Zamora.

Referees in the Middle: Mark Clattenburg

Premier League Career: 2004-2017

First Premier League Match: Crystal Palace 1-3 Everton (21 August 2004)

Final Premier League Match: West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Leicester City (29 April 2017)

In 2017, the Premier League bid farewell to Mark Clattenburg. The 42-year-old from County Durham accepted the opportunity to become the Head of Refereeing for the Football Federation in Saudi Arabia.

A referee since 1990, Clattenburg officiated 292 Premier League matches over a 13-year career in the English top-flight. He flashed the yellow card to players 946 times and showed nearly 50 red cards but his controlling influence on matches made him one of the regulars in some of the league’s most tempestuous and key fixtures. The peak of his career came in 2016, when he took charge of the FA Cup final, UEFA Champions League final and the European Championships final in a space of a few weeks.

He took up refereeing through the rewarding Duke of Edinburgh scheme and three years later, became an assistant referee in the Northern League. He made the National List of Football League refs in 2000 and his first match came that year as Chesterfield beat York City 4-1 in a Division Two clash. He was just 25 at this appointment, breaking several post-war records.

Clattenburg spent the next four years plying his trade in the Football League, often called in to take charge of crucial semi-finals in the play-offs. He was the man in the middle for the 2004 Third Division play-off final between Huddersfield Town and Mansfield Town and was promoted to the Select Group of officials later that year.

In August 2004, Mark was given his first Premier League appointment as Everton won 3-1 away at Crystal Palace, awarding the visitors a penalty in this match which was converted by Thomas Gravesen. His first difficult moment came five months later when Tottenham Hotspur were denied a late win at Old Trafford. Pedro Mendes’ goal-bound effort from distance was dropped over the goal-line by Roy Carroll but wasn’t spotted by the linesman. Clattenburg was in a poor position, so couldn’t award the goal as he wasn’t 100% sure it had crossed the line.

He became a FIFA referee in 2006 and even took charge of a testimonial match for Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer on his retirement from playing. His allegiance towards the Magpies’ means he has never refereed a competitive match involving Newcastle United.

Clattenburg has shown the red card over the years on nearly 50 occasions. Some of his key dismissals include:

  • His first red card came on his Premier League debut, with Gary Naysmith dismissed for dragging back Wayne Routledge in Everton’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace in August 2004.
  • Everton were on the receiving end in a Merseyside Derby in October 2007 – losing Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville to red cards in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool FC at Goodison Park. David Moyes said afterwards: “The referee has had a very bad day at the office!”
  • Sent off Manchester City defender Dedryck Boyata just four minutes into a clash with Arsenal in October 2010 for a professional foul. Arsenal win the match 3-0.
  • Jonny Evans was dismissed in the Manchester Derby of October 2011 for hauling down Mario Balotelli in a goalscoring opportunity. Manchester City take full advantage to beat their local rivals 6-1 at Old Trafford.
  • Dismissed West Bromwich Albion full-back Goran Popov for spitting during a home match with Tottenham Hotspur in February 2013.
  • Awarded Liverpool FC three penalties at Old Trafford in March 2014 and sends Nemanja Vidic off in LFC’s 3-0 win over the reigning champions.
  • Gave two penalties to Leicester City and sends off Manchester United youngster Tyler Blackett during an eight-goal contest between the teams in September 2014.
  • Per Mertesacker saw red in January 2016 as Chelsea win 1-0 at The Emirates Stadium to complete a league double over Arsenal.

In 2008, Clattenburg was appointed as referee for the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Portsmouth but this was later given to Peter Walton after an investigation that led to him missing the majority of the 2008-2009 campaign. He was suspended during the investigation which was looking into alleged debts incurred by companies with which he was connected to. Citing a breach of contract, the referees’ governing body dismissed Clattenburg but he appealed the decision, denying any wrongdoing. The PGMOB reinstated him in February 2009 but back-dated his suspension to eight months meaning he took charge of just one Premier League match all season, the final day encounter at The Etihad Stadium between Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers.

He re-established his integrity over the next four seasons, earning the 2012 League Cup final for his rewards and also, took charge of the men’s football final at the 2012 London Olympics when gold medal favourites Brazil were humbled by Mexico 2-1 at Wembley Stadium. Controversy was never that far away though for Mark.

In October 2012, Manchester United ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the domestic season, winning 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Clattenburg sent off Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres during the match and also allowed United’s winner to stand even though Javier Hernandez was clearly in an offside position. After the game, Chelsea accused him of using racist language towards their Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel when he was booked.

The FA took him out of the firing line for a month but cleared him of any wrongdoing nine days after the fixture in west London and charged Mikel with using “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour” towards Clattenburg after the match. Mikel was found guilty and received a three-match ban and a £60,000 fine.

In a statement afterwards, he said: “I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.”

2016 was Mark’s big break. First, he was appointed to the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium between Crystal Palace and Manchester United. He sent Chris Smalling off in extra-time but Louis van Gaal’s side still prevailed to win 2-1. A week later, he was in Milan to officiate the biggest game in European club football, the final of the UEFA Champions League. Real Madrid played city rivals Atletico Madrid and won 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Then, he went to France as one of the English officials at the 2016 European Championships. He was given the showpiece final gig which saw hosts France shocked 1-0 by Portugal, again after an extra-time conclusion.

Never one to accept the appointments quietly, he had the logos of the UEFA Champions League and the 2016 UEFA Euros tattooed on his arm to remember the final of the two competitions that he officiated in a few months later.

In February 2017, it was confirmed that he was to leave his post as a Premier League official to educate younger referees in Saudi Arabia. Replacing another huge figure in Howard Webb, the PGMOL said in a statement: “Mark is a talented referee; he has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grassroots of the game.

His final top-flight match in this country was a fairly uneventful Midlands Derby in April 2017 between West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City which Leicester won 1-0 thanks to a Jamie Vardy goal. Even though he isn’t in the middle in England, he has still made headlines recently from infidelity allegations about his love life to admitting that he let Tottenham Hotspur self-destruct at Stamford Bridge in May 2016 on the night where their 2-2 draw handed the title to 5000-1 outsiders Leicester City.

However, he is one of the best referees we’ve seen in the Premier League and his achievements in the game can’t be ignored despite some of the controversy.

Referees in the Middle: Jeff Winter

Premier League Career: 1995-2004

First Premier League Match: Nottingham Forest 0-0 Chelsea (23 August 1995)

Final Premier League Match: Charlton Athletic 2-1 Southampton (15 May 2004)

On average, Jeff Winter would officiate 20 Premier League matches a season and his no-nonsense approach to the game made him one of the leading officials in the country in his prime.

During his Premier League career, which lasted nine seasons, Winter took charge of 185 Premier League matches. He handed out 535 yellow cards, awarded 27 penalties and dished out the red card on 27 occasions too.

Manchester City’s Richard Edghill was the first victim of a red card from Jeff Winter. He picked up two bookable offences to see the tunnel earlier than his Manchester City teammates in a 3-1 reverse to Newcastle United in September 1995.

Other notable Premier League red cards he gave out included:

  • Sent off Blackburn Rovers debutant Garry Flitcroft inside of three minutes in a 3-0 home defeat to Everton in March 1996.
  • Dismissed Roy Keane in October 1996 in the first half as Manchester United crumbled away at Southampton, losing 6-3.
  • Gave Franck Leboeuf his marching orders after a petulant stamp on Harry Kewell as Chelsea went down 2-0 at home to Leeds United in December 1999.
  • John Hartson saw red for foul and abusive language in Wimbledon’s damaging 3-0 loss to Bradford City in April 2000; a result that played a crucial role in the “Crazy Gang’s” relegation from the top-flight in 1999-2000.
  • Sent off Christian Ziege in the closing stages of Spurs’ entertaining 3-2 win at Manchester City in December 2003. This turned out to be the last time Jeff Winter would show a red card in a Premier League match.

Two of Winter’s hardest Premier League games came in 2001. In August, he showed nine yellow cards and sent off both Lee Bowyer and Danny Mills for two bookable offences in the match between Arsenal and Leeds United at Highbury. Despite finishing with nine men, Leeds held on to a 2-1 victory.

Four months earlier, he made several dubious calls during a pulsating Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park. Winter awarded two controversial penalties, booked 11 players and harshly sent Igor Biscan off in a performance which was questionable to say the least.

His last match in professional football was the 2004 FA Cup final as Manchester United saw off First Division outfit Millwall 3-0 in the showpiece event.

After retirement, Winter appeared as a referee in the revived BBC programme ‘Superstars’ and became an official in Masters Football indoor tournaments. He has worked on radio from TFM Radio on Teeside, and also has a book out called ‘WHO’S THE B*****D IN THE BLACK? CONFESSIONS OF A PREMIERSHIP REFEREE’

Current Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce once said this of Winter: “He drives me nuts. An absolute prat – and you can print that as well.”

However, he did his job very well and won plenty of respect too.

Referees in the Middle: Rob Styles

Premier League Career: 2000-2009

First Premier League Match: West Ham United 0-1 Leicester City (23 August 2000)

Final Premier League Match: Chelsea 2-0 Blackburn Rovers (17 May 2009)

In nine seasons of top-flight officiating, Rob Styles took charge of 212 Premier League matches. He was one of the most controversial officials in the Premier League era and never shied away from annoying supporters and managers with some of his key decisions.

Styles began refereeing in 1987 and nine years later, was appointed to the National list. He started to make his breakthrough at the start of the millennium, taking charge of the Second Division play-off final between Gillingham and Wigan Athletic. He was also the fourth official in 2000 at both the FA Trophy and LDV Vans Trophy finals.

In the same year, he was promoted to the Premier League officiating list and his first game came in the second round of matches in the 2000-2001 season. For the record, Darren Eadie scored the only goal as Leicester City won 1-0 at Upton Park against West Ham United. In the same game, West Ham’s Igor Stimac was sent off.

He became a FIFA referee in 2002 and three years later, was in-charge for the 2005 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester United. He sent off Jose Antonio Reyes in the closing stages of extra-time before the match went to penalties, won ultimately by Arsenal.

Based in Waterlooville, Styles showed the yellow card to offending players a whopping 689 times. He gave 57 penalties, including 11 in the 2007-2008 campaign alone. The lowest moment of his career came in August 2007 when he put in a comical display at Anfield. He awarded Chelsea a penalty in the second half when adjudging Steve Finnan had fouled Florent Malouda, even though the ball was nowhere near Malouda and replays showed no contact between the players. Frank Lampard converted the spot-kick, earning Chelsea a point and leaving Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez generally baffled by the decision.

He booked nine players on that afternoon and was at the centre of another talking point when he appeared to show a yellow card to both John Terry and Michael Essien, who had been cautioned earlier in the match. He later clarified that only Terry was booked in the incident (shown below).

Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard piled the pressure on the embattled ref afterwards, telling the Evening Standard: “The referee didn’t play well. There was a lot of pressure from the Chelsea players and I thought he eventually cracked. I hope he apologises. When players make mistakes they have to come out and say sorry so we’ll see what he has to say.”

Styles later telephoned Benitez to apologise for his cock-up but Keith Hackett confirmed shortly afterwards that he would be dropped for the next round of Premier League matches. Ultimately, it would be the beginning of the end for his career.

In January 2009, he dismissed West Bromwich Albion’s Paul Robinson against Manchester United in a game where the visitors’ cruised to a 5-0 victory. However, the FA elected to rescind the red card given in the match for a challenge on Ji-Sung Park. He felt any support from the governing body was gone after this escapade and although he carried on until the end of the season, the zest was gone.

In the summer of 2009, Styles decided enough was enough and quit refereeing. Graham Poll wrote in his Daily Mail column: “He cared deeply about his refereeing; dedicating himself to serving the game he loves. However, the fact that the majority of the football-watching public will merely shrug their shoulders in indifference at this news or say ‘Good’ proves the lack of understanding of the modern referee.”

Referees in the Middle: Graham Barber

Premier League Career: 1996-2004

First Premier League Match: Nottingham Forest 1-4 Sunderland (21 August 1996)

Final Premier League Match: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Fulham (15 May 2004)

One of the most familiar referees in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Graham Barber took charge of 169 Premier League matches during his excellent top-flight career. He showed no messing when it came to getting out his notebook, dishing out 624 yellow cards during his Premier League spell. That’s an average of nearly four yellow cards per match.

Barber’s first appointment to a Premier League came in August 1996 as Sunderland ran riot at The City Ground, beating Nottingham Forest 4-1 to record their first Premier League victory. His first red card was handed out to the Arsenal skipper Tony Adams for bringing down Newcastle’s Alan Shearer in a goalscoring opportunity position during a match in November 1996.

Among his other red card victims over the years were Nicky Butt in a 3-0 defeat for Manchester United at Highbury in September 1998. He also sent off Andy Cole in a Red Devils’ 3-2 victory at Anfield in September 1999 and Gareth Barry for foul and abusive language on the opening weekend of the 2003-2004 season when Portsmouth saw off Aston Villa 2-1.

Graham’s professionalism was rarely called into question. His biggest error of judgement came in a Premier League game between Sunderland and Liverpool FC in February 2001. Sunderland’s Stanislav Varga took out Liverpool FC midfielder Gary McAllister as the veteran bared down on-goal. Whilst Barber gave the spot-kick which was duly converted, he failed to send Varga off in the mayhem that followed his decision. The FA gave him a severe reprimand for failing to follow the letter of the law.

Based in Tring in Hertfordshire, he was close pals with Graham Poll and like his namesake, was privileged to take charge of some showpiece occasions. He controlled the 1999 Charity Shield which Arsenal won against Manchester United and the Gunners’ FA Cup final victory over Southampton four years later.

He also took charge of the 2002 Division One play-off final in Cardiff when Birmingham City defeated Norwich City on penalties and the 2003 UEFA Super Cup Final which saw Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan beat FC Porto, managed by a certain Jose Mourinho.

Two years before the standard FA retirement age, Barber decided to retire at the end of the 2003-2004 campaign. His final match was on the last day of that Premier League season as Fulham achieved a 2-0 away victory at Bolton Wanderers.

He moved to Spain soon after his retirement with his family and is now the CEO of Europa Networks.